Easter: John 20:11-16

It doesn’t matter how many times you face it, it never feels natural.  It never feels right.  Death always feels wrong.

Something inside us doesn’t accept that we will never again hear that voice, see that face, touch that hand, or experience that laughter.  The grief counselors can talk until they are blue in the face, telling us that death is simply a part of life, and how we must accept it as unavoidable and natural.  But we never do.  We never will.

Mary didn’t accept death.  Oh, she had no doubt that her Lord, her Teacher, was dead.  She had witnessed the horror of it.  Standing next to His mother, she had seen the light die in His eyes as He hung gruesomely on the cross.  She had seen them take His limp body from the wood, heard the ghastly sound as they pulled nails.  He was dead.  She had no doubt of that.

But it was not right.  She knew it was not right.  And she simply had to touch Him again.  She had to see His body again.  But the body was gone.  She had run to tell Peter and John–a lot of help they were.  They checked it out and agreed that she was right: the body, indeed, was no longer there.

Then they left her.  But Mary remained.  She didn’t know what to do, where to go, or to whom to turn.  So she just stood there and started to cry.  This was not the easy, gentle tears of someone who happened to be sad.  No, Mary wept the gut-wrenching, full-voiced sobs of the grieving.

Death: It wounds not only those it takes from us, but it also wounds those who are left.  And sometimes it wounds us so badly that we think it will kill us then and there.  Mary knew something of that as she sobbed and looked into the tomb.

But something was different now.  The tomb wasn’t empty after all.  There were angels there, dressed in white.  One was sitting where the Lord’s head had been, one where His feet had been.  And although Mary’s sorrow could never shake or destroy their joy, they are concerned for her.  “Woman,” they ask, “why are you weeping?”

Jesus’ death was such a reality for her that she didn’t say, “Because my Lord is dead.”  Mary knew and believed that.  That morning, Mary didn’t go to the tomb to see her resurrected Lord.  She went to anoint His dead body.  That’s why Mary answered, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

Not knowing where the body was taken was tearing her up.  His Death was horrible enough.  But not being able to find His body left her without the closure she sought.  How could she not attend to her Lord’s body and give it the last services His death demanded?  She had to know where Jesus was, to touch His body once more.  How else could she face tomorrow?  How else could she face the rest of her life?

Mary’s grief was so overpowering that her conversation with angels does not register.  So she straightens up and turns and almost runs into the One who had never been far from her, the One who stood right beside her in her grief–though she knew it not.  He gently asks, “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?”

Hope rises in Mary’s heart.  Is it the gardener?  Perhaps he is the one who moved her Master’s body.  “Sir,” she cries, “if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

Was it her tears that blinded Mary’s eyes that morning?  Was it the grief of her heart that made the entire world feel as if it were moving in slow motion–unreal and phantom-like?  It all changed when He said one word.  He called her name: “Mary.”

Jesus earlier said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).  Although Mary hadn’t recognized Him before, at the sound of her name, Mary’s heart pounded.  She caught her breath, moved the hair from her face, and stared in awe, in terror, in joy rising like a flood.

“Rabboni,” she cried; “My teacher!”  And she lunged for Jesus and held His feet.  Beyond hope, beyond her wildest dreams, He stood there.  He was not a ghost, a spirit, an illusion, or some fantasy in her mind.  Her Jesus was there before her with skin and bones.  The wounds were still visible, yet transfigured, shining in glory.  It was her Jesus!

And the tears came again, but this time of another sort.  These were not the sobs of despair.  These tears were, instead, the tears that brim from a cup that overflows with joy.

It was a tender moment, but the joys were only beginning.  Jesus had work for Mary to do, an embassy for her to carry out.  He sent her first to His apostles.  She was to tell them that He lives and that He is preparing to go to His Father and their Father, to His God and their God.  For Death was not the end of Jesus–and so it will not be the end of Mary or of the disciples.

Nor will death be the end of you.  Jesus has changed forever how we live, how we grieve, and how we die.  Oh, we still feel how wrong death is, down to our aching bones.  Death still feels unnatural, and we hate it with a passion.

But Jesus has made death something we never have to fear–not ever again.  For by His death and resurrection, Jesus has wounded death itself, and dealt it a mortal blow from which it will never recover.  He came out of its stinking gullet alive again, never to die again.  And His promise to Mary, to His apostles, and to all His baptized children is that He will bring each of us through the hole He punched in death into the home He has prepared for us with His Father.

To strengthen your faith in His resurrection victory, Jesus continues to put into your dying bodies His body that was on the tree, atoning for all your sin.  His body, which was in the tomb, now sanctifies your grave.  He pours down your throat the blood that He shed to wipe out the sin of the world, and He reminds you that it is all for you.

Jesus whispers to each of you, “As death could not hold Me, so it will not hold you, My child.  Baptized into My undying life, I will bring you out of death just as I came out of it–alive, never to die again.  And then the celebration will begin as you have never seen it!”

Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  Amen.




  1. Gene Mackey says

    Please explain Infant Communion

    • Gene,

      It’s really communing someone during the same service in which he was baptized (irrespective of baptismal age) and then thereafter, with instruction continuing in one form or another until he is called home to be with God in eternity.

      I think you may not be seeing the hyperlink on the Infant Communion page. If so, click on the picture and it should bring up the page where you can open up the Word document to read the paper. Then if you have a specific question, I’ll try to answer it.


      Pr Rich Futrell